Cortisol is a chemical substance produced by the adrenal glands. When the levels of cortisol in the blood stream become high the HPA axis feedback mechanism turns off the corticotrophin-releasing hormone. This is a signal for the brain and adrenal glands to decrease the production of cortisol. Under continuous periods of stress this feedback system becomes ineffective once it becomes stuck in the fight or flight mode.
Some amount of cortisol in the blood stream is essential for life. It is necessary for normal brain, immune, muscle, blood sugar function, and blood circulation. One initial symptom of adrenal fatigue is high levels of cortisol. If the high levels of stress continue and the adrenal glands are deteriorating, it causes a decline in cortisol production.
Cortisol deficiency can cause Addison's disease, which is a potentially fatal illness. Excessive production of cortisol is equally damaging. The Adrenal Stress Index is a saliva test that can determine if your cortisol levels are too high or too low. Too much cortisol can cause abdominal obesity, high blood sugar, muscle wasting, bone loss, immune shutdown, brain (hippocampus) atrophy, poor wound healing, thin wrinkled skin, fluid retention and hypertension.
High cortisol can cause increased fatigue / decreased energy, irritability, impaired memory, depressed mood, decreased libido, insomnia, anxiety, impaired concentration, crying, restlessness, social withdrawal, and feelings of hopelessness.
Chronically high cortisol may also lead to many diseases like cancer, ulcers, heart attacks, diabetes, infections, alcoholism, strokes, skin diseases, psychosis, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, and possibly Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. High Cortisol may contribute to obesity as it causes metabolic disruptions including insulin resistance. It also induces "stress overeating," especially in women.
An Adrenal Stress Index is a simple saliva test with which you can determine if your cortisol levels are too high or too low. For the test you will have to collect saliva samples four times during the day, which determines a diurnal cortisol rhythm. If high cortisol levels or adrenal fatigue is discovered quickly it enhances your chances for recovery from more serious health problems.
Here are a few ways to reduce high cortisol:
1. Use cortisol-reducing supplement
2. Eat at regular intervals throughout the day: Avoid skipping meals, as it will create a cortisol release. 3. Excessive carbohydrate intake creates cortisol release in response to constantly elevated insulin levels. Have complex carbohydrates instead.
4. Utilize stress reduction techniques at peak cortisol times: meditation, self-hypnosis, or simply lying on the floor doing belly breathing for 10-15 minutes can help to reduce stress and thus cortisol levels.
5. Get to bed on time. Get at least 8 hours of sleep every night.
6. Avoid stimulants: Stay away from energy drinks that contain ephedra-like compounds and caffeine. Stimulants shift the body into sympathetic dominance, or the "fight or flight" mode. Stimulants can also disrupt your sleeping patterns.